The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Thursday, December 29, 2005
THE 30-YEAR ITCH: For those who came in late: Rather than listing the best films of the year now ending -- a task I'm especially ill-qualified to do this December, since I haven't made it to many movies since my daughter was born in July -- I'm recommending my favorite pictures of
1995, 1985, and now 1975:

1. Nashville
Directed by Robert Altman
Written by Joan Tewkesbury

Some of my friends dismiss this one as a smug left-coaster giving a raspberry to flyover country. To them I point out that the least sympathetic characters in the whole vast cast are the rocker from LA and the reporter from the UK. Altman's withering satire is nothing if not universal.

2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Directed by Milos Forman
Written by Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben, from a novel by Ken Kesey

Perhaps it wasn't obvious at the time, but this scathing attack on the nanny state suggests an invisible fissure in the counterculture. I imagine some young hipster watching All in the Family one night in 1975 and then heading out for a late screening of this movie, never dreaming that his hero Rob Reiner would turn out to have more in common with Nurse Ratched than with McMurphy.

3. Love and Death
Written and directed by Woody Allen

His funniest film, and his most pointedly political picture too.

4. Dog Day Afternoon
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Frank Pierson

Best bank-robbery movie ever. "Sal, Wyoming's not a country."

5. Picnic at Hanging Rock
Directed by Peter Weir
Written by Cliff Green, from a novel by Joan Lindsay

If you want to understand the mass media's fixation on disappearing white girls, start here.

6. Swept an unusual destiny in the blue sea of August
Written and directed by Lina Wertmuller

A comedy about the complexities of love, lust, and power, and the difficulties in discerning who wields the latter when the first two forces are in play. I'm reminded of a line from the Firesign Theatre: "It's a new world now, honey! Nobody's gwine have to be a slave all de time no mo'. We's gwine take turns."

7. Fox and His Friends
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Written by Fassbinder and Christian Hohoff

Fassbinder was a trailblazing gay director, a man who somehow managed to fuse the aesthetics of Douglas Sirk and John Cassavetes, and, like Wertmuller, a radical with no patience for political correctness. I'll steal a passage from Roger Ebert: "Years before Hollywood made its first faltering steps in the direction of a new frankness about homosexuality, Fassbinder was miles out in front. He was so comfortable with gay characters that he felt no hesitation in portraying some of them as selfish, brutal and grasping -- as evil, indeed, as heterosexuals in other movies. Here is a movie about characters who define themselves by their sexuality, but the movie doesn't. It takes the sexuality as a given, and defines them by their values and morals."

8. Jaws
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, from Benchley's novel

There's a small handful of Spielberg movies that I like, but if all his pictures were to disappear from the earth tomorrow this is the only one I'd miss.

9. Grey Gardens
Directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer

The best documentaries are about people, not events. This one captures two aging eccentrics whose relationship can never be entirely explained, just observed.

10. The Man Who Would Be King
Directed by John Huston
Written by Huston and Gladys Hill, from a story by Rudyard Kipling

"They're Masons!"

posted by Jesse 3:17 PM
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